Defining remote management and monitoring in a small business

Even though small businesses are different from larger enterprise organizations in both size and scale, it is remarkable how much small businesses operate like larger enterprises. To be profitable, a business relies on the availability of the technology infrastructure. Even slight amounts of computer

downtime are disruptive to small businesses, just as they are for enterprises. In fact, small businesses have come to expect the same level of performance and reliability from computer networks that is assumed at the enterprise level, with one key caveat: small businesses expect high computer network performance levels at a fraction of the costs incurred by enterprises to achieve the same goal.

Small Business Server 2000, with its remote management and performance monitoring capabilities, provides the answer to this business dilemma. You can use Small Business Server 2000 remote management and monitoring tools to proactively manage small business customer sites. Small Business Server 2000 IT professionals are more efficient in delivering their services. This is because they can perform many tasks remotely, and, with performance monitoring, they have better information available to determine which tasks to perform.

As a Small Business Server 2000 IT professional, you can advise customers proactively that specific systems-related work needs to be performed. More importantly, remote management and monitoring capabilities enable you to communicate more often and typically more positively with customers. A key tenet to managing a successful small business technology consulting practice is to add value by communicating what the clients need to know, when they need to know it. It is also a service provider best practice and the key to sustained profitability.

A principal Small Business Server 2000 design goal is to provide the IT professional with remote management and performance monitoring tools. Note that these tools can be used with all of your Small Business Server 2000 customers to provide an overall higher level of service.

These tools include the following:

  • Terminal Services. Installed by default in Small Business Server 2000 in Remote Administration mode, this tool enables you to perform many ongoing network administration duties remotely. You may also secure the server computer in a locked area (such as a ventilated server room) and use a local Terminal Services session from a desktop to complete administration tasks.
  • Consoles. Two consoles are used for management:
  • Server Status View. Found on the default home page of the Small Business Server Administrator Console, Server Status View provides a quick visual display of alert conditions, common performance counters, and current service status. You can customize Server Status View to display the information you want.
  • Server Status Reports. This popular tool enables you to receive regularly scheduled communication (such as an e-mail or fax) that communicates the current state of the customer’s Small Business Server computer network. Reporting areas include performance counters, service status, and alerts. Note that these areas, while similar to the information displayed in the Server Status View, are much more detailed in the Server Status Report format. The XML Reporting Tool extends and enhances the Server Status Report tool.
  • Health Monitor 2.1. This is a real-time continuous monitoring tool that alerts you when a threshold performance condition has been reached. For example, Health Monitor 2.1 could alert you when a pre-set condition for free disk space has been encountered (for example, less than 10 percent free disk space).

Successful customer engagement with remote management and monitoring

Customers want better performance from computer networks and better customer service from their IT professionals. The IT professional wants to provide profitable and needed services to customers. There are many ways to better (and profitably) serve customers with the remote management and monitoring capabilities in Small Business Server 2000. This section discusses potential daily activities that are intended to improve customer satisfaction and increase service revenues.

Daily activities

Each day, for each customer, you could review and respond as necessary to the information provided in the Server Status Report.

  • Performance Counters. At a glance, you can view recent reports for the critical monitoring areas of disk, memory, and processor. This information is especially useful when viewed daily to determine memory leaks, high processor use, and high disk-space use. It is suggested that you view the following performance counters every day (note that your specific situation may warrant viewing additional performance counters):
  • Service Status. You can use the comprehensive list of services to confirm that key services such as the Microsoft Exchange Information Store are running. You can also see service conditions, such as Stop Pending, which can represent a failed or crashed service. A common remedy for such a situation is to initiate a Terminal Services session with the customer’s Small Business Server 2000 server computer, review the event logs, and perhaps stop and restart the service.
  • Alerts. Health Monitor alerts, as of the time the Server Status Report was transmitted, are reported here. Alerts are resolved on a case-by-case basis. However, just like the Service Status remedy above, a common remedy for such a situation is to initiate a Terminal Services session with the customer’s Small Business Server 2000 server computer, review the event logs, and perhaps stop and restart the service.
  • Event Logs. You can attach log files to the Server Status Report for the different event logs and Web Proxy. These logs are valuable for monitoring the Small Business Server 2000 network. When you see a Critical or Warning entry, you can search Microsoft TechNet at for specific Event ID information and a suggested resolution.
  • Customization. A key value add to the Server Status Report is the ability to add tape backup reports, virus definition update logs, and reports from applications such as an overnight database re-indexing report from an accounting software package.
  • XML-Based Analysis. Use the XML Reporting Tool to better view and sort the core Performance Counter, Service Status, and Alerts information from the Server Status Report.

Central to the daily review of the Server Status Report is your ability to communicate important information to your customers. Many successful consultants believe that the key to a successful consulting relationship is constant and consistent communication. For example, you could provide the following kinds of feedback to your customers via daily e-mail:

It’s a good idea to forward the Server Status Report to your customers near the start of the business day, so your customers are assured that the Small Business Server 2000 network is working properly. If you have added custom reports, such as a tape backup log or a virus definition file update log, these log files are typically the most current (and accurate) early in the day. Also, you can fax the Server Status Report.

You can bill the daily Server Status Report review to your customers as part of your service. You might also perform this daily task as part of a range of services for a monthly retainer (see “Monthly Activities” later in this paper). In some cases, IT professionals read and reply to the Server Status Report every day without charge, and bill their customers only for the time spent on tasks that result from findings in the Server Status Report. They find that this practice is justified by customer service gains, additional work, and customer referrals.

Part two will tell you what to do on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis and annual basis for remote management and monitoring.

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